Once widespread in meadows and fields, it is now slowly disappearing from the landscape due to the industrialization of agriculture and the use of herbicides. Although many people consider it a weed and a "field flower," the cornflower is a plant used in many industries.
Cornflower is an annual plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family.
It is a member of the cornflowers, a genus that includes about 500 species of herbaceous plants.
It is native to the temperate climate zones of Europe. In Britain, it is an archaeophyte.
An archaeophyte is a plant that was introduced to a new area by humans in distant times. The cut-off date for archaeophytes is considered the end of the 15th century, the time of the great geographical discoveries. The cornflower came to Britain during the Iron Age.
In modern times it was introduced to North America.
There it was given the local name cornflower because it grows very often in cornfields.
In the wild, it is most likely to grow in cultivated fields.
It used to be a fairly common landscape feature, but with the increasing use of herbicides, the range of the cornflower has decreased significantly. Recent reports indicate that cornflowers are beginning to cope with some types of herbicides, making them more difficult to control in cultivated areas.
Cornflower requires a sunny spot and neutral to slightly alkaline soil.
It grows best at pH levels between 6.6 and 7.8 in moist and well-drained soil. If well rooted, it can survive even temporary droughts.
It can reach a height of 30 to 90 cm (12 to 35.5 in).
The leaves are 1 to 4 cm (0.4 to 1.6 in) long and the inflorescences are 1.5 to 3 cm (0.6 to 1.2 in) in diameter.
The plant has a very strong root system, which makes it difficult to remove in the spring before sowing in the field.
The blue color of cornflower flowers is due to their content of protocyanin.
The same compound is responsible for the red color of rose petals.
It is a self-pollinating plant, although its pollen and nectar attract many insects.
Hymenoptera and flies (Diptera) are particularly susceptible to the attracting effects of the cornflower.
Cornflower nectar is very sweet - so it is highly valued by beekeepers.
Sugar makes up as much as 34% of cornflower nectar, and its ability to produce sugar is 0.2 mg per day.
Cornflowers bloom throughout the summer and at the end of summer, the plant disperses seeds.
Cornflowers often contaminate cereal and rapeseed crops, which is why they are considered a weed by farmers. A single plant can produce up to 800 seeds during its lifetime.
Cornflower petals are edible.
They can be eaten fresh, dried or cooked. They are used in tea blends, salads, and desserts as garnishes.
Cornflowers are used to obtain food coloring.
The protocyanins and other anthocyanins contained in the petals of this plant are used as dyes in the production of many foods, such as yogurt.
It is used in herbal medicine.
The inflorescence of the plant is most valued for its anti-inflammatory and protective properties for the digestive system. It contains quercetin, apigenin and caffeic acid derivatives. It also contains antioxidants such as ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.
The cornflower has been the national flower of Estonia since 1918.
It is an important symbol in this region and is used by local politicians. For example, it appears in the logos of: Estonian Conservative People's Party or Finnish National Coalition Party.
It has been a symbol of social liberalism in Sweden since the early 20th century.
It is also the official flower of the Swedish province of Östergötland.
Cornflowers often appear in paintings.
One of the more famous paintings in which the cornflower motif appears is Vincent van Gogh's landscape painting Wheat Field with Cornflowers, created in July 1890. Cornflowers also appear on the canvases of Igor Grabar, Sergei Osipov or Issac Levitan.